Conflict-of-interest case still unresolved

COLUMBIA --- The discord over whether a commissioner elected to the Clearwater Water and Sewer District may also serve as the district clerk might require a judge's intervention. That is the suggestion by the South Carolina State Election Commission.

Legislation that was originally designed to separate Christy Coleman from one of her two official roles suggests that she would either resign or be forced from office by a judge, according to Chris Whitmire, the public information officer for the State Election Commission. He said county and state election commissions are not involved with removing someone from office.

The South Carolina secretary of state is also unlikely to step in.

Media relations director René Daggerhart said the Secretary of State's Office had finished its role after it certified the Clearwater election results, received a completed oath from Coleman and issued her the commission.

Coleman was elected to the three-person board in November, even as she served as bookkeeper for the district, a job she has had for about 10 years. Rep. Roland Smith, a Warrenville Republican and chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said he filed H. 3625 with the backing of Aiken County delegation members, to get rid of the potential for conflict-of-interest in Coleman's situation.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law Thursday, effective immediately, touting it as a "major step toward ending the unconstitutional practice of local legislation." She had vetoed Smith's original bill, H. 3321, which had applied only to water and sewer districts in Langley, Bath and Clearwater, citing a violation of the home rule provision of the state constitution. The revised legislation was statewide.

Efforts to reach Coleman were unsuccessful Tuesday. However, she submitted a list of concerns to a reporter last week, among them that her two capacities had been mischaracterized to the public.

"Why does the specter of 'dual office-holding' keep being alluded to?" wrote Coleman.

"The job of clerk is a low-paying, part-time job and commissioners are not paid by law. The clerk's position is not an office."

She maintains that Smith held a grudge against her.


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